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Playa Tortuga is one of our favorite beaches in Costa Rica. It’s the last beach before the coast emerges into the huge wetlands and mangroves of the Rio Terraba and Rio Sierpe ecosystem, an important and protected area of the OSA peninsula. The beach is only a short distance from Ojochal, the small village which is our home for 2 years now until we move further South once our house is finished at the beginning of 2022.

Playa Tortuga has a pristine and stunning coastline and sandy beach which extends about 2 km from the Terraba river mouth in the South over the mouths of Rio Balso and Rio Tortuga until a dipping cliff with breaking waves and some awesome pirate caves in the North. Due to the three rivers coming in, the dunes and sand constantly shift and there are areas with big amounts of driftwood. The swamps at Playa Tortuga are home to crocodiles and in the nearby jungle and rain forest one can find monkeys, coatis, kinkajous, anteaters, iguanas, lizards, several species of butterflies and birds as well as the majestic scarlet macaws.

But now you are wondering why it is called Playa Tortuga, right? That’s Spanish for Turtle Beach, because it is a famous nesting ground for various sea turtles, who come ashore and lay their eggs in the warm sand. Between July and December, Olive Ridley sea turtles are common guests at Playa Tortuga and also leatherbacks and green sea turtles can be witnessed.

Depending on the species, sea turtles lay about 50 to 350 eggs and they mostly come at night to dig a hole, lay their eggs, then fill it up with sand and cover their tracks before vanishing back into the ocean.

Unfortunately, turtle nests are threatened in many ways - by human activities and by different predators. For this reason, conservation programs like the local initiative Reserva Playa Tortuga are searching for nests, safely dig out the eggs and incubate them under controlled circumstances. The moment the baby turtles have hatched, the staff and volunteers are bringing them to the beach and gently release them into the ocean. They are also guarding the event, so no predators on land or from the sky could come to get a turtle.

This whole process is crucial for the survival of the turtles - especially when you know that only 1 of 1000 turtle babies will reach an adult age of 20 years, due to many threats. On land there are predators like coatis, dogs or big birds and in the ocean plastic waste, pollution, boats and fishing gear which can be a deadly hazard to the turtles - not only for babies, but also for mature turtles. The conservation status of the Olive Ridley sea turtles is already vulnerable.

For us this turtle release was a magic event and we hope the little creatures will have all the luck they're gonna need on their journey to grow up. And hopefully some turtles will come back to lay their eggs at the exact spot at Playa Tortuga.

If you want to know more about Reserva Playa Tortuga and their work, click here.

All media © The Vegan Pirates


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